Books My Mother Gave Me

All posts in the Books My Mother Gave Me category

Books My Mother Gave Me: Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle (C.S Lewis) Review

Published December 30, 2013 by ElisaChristy

This is the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Nearly all of the characters from earlier Narnia books make an appearance in this one, including Eustace Scrubbs who is a character in one of the two Narnia books I don’t own.

“One always feels better when one has made up one’s mind.”

All the characters come to Narnia, as for most of the book they seem to be pulled there while they are on a train. This has happened before to the Pevensie children in Prince Caspian, but this time it seems to be more of a bumpy transition between the worlds, the reason for which the characters find out at the end.

Most of the book is taken up with a donkey pretending to be Aslan with the help of a monkey, though this takes up much of the book it is not the main focus, the main focus is instead the end of Narnia and how it ends.

“‘She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste the rest of her life trying to stay that age.'”

With most of the characters being together for the first time in all the books, this book acts as a very fitting end to the stories, along with the plot which is about things ending and what happens afterwards. The religious symbolism of this story is probably stronger in this book than in the others because of this being the main focus. However, it doesn’t detract from the story as much as it could do. Instead, it makes the story seem more coherent because of it.

If you like the previous Narnia books, then chances are you will like this noe for all the same reasons. It really does make an interesting end to the series.

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Books My Mother Gave Me: The Happy Prince and Other Stories (Oscar Wilde) Short Story Review

Published October 21, 2013 by ElisaChristy

The Happy Prince and Other Stories originally only had five stories in it (The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend and The Remarkable Rocket.) Although, my copy seems to have four more stories added on the end. Though these added stories are longer than the others and seem to have much happier endings than the original five, which may be why they were added to what is after all a children’s book.

The Happy Prince:

“The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.”

The happy prince tells the story of a statue of a prince, made out of gold, with sapphires for eyes, and everyone knows that the prince the statue is of was happy while alive.

But now he is dead, and his statue has been placed high above the castle walls so he can finally see the suffering of his city, and so is not happy anymore. An eagle sees him crying and helps the statue give away his eyes made from sapphire and the gold leaf covering him to the poor, meaning the statue is finally happy, but no longer beautiful.

“As he is no longer beautiful, he is no longer useful.”

The now ugly statue is taken down, but the wording of the quote above does seem to serve a point. The prince was useful to the poor only while he was beautiful as he could give away his sapphire eyes and gold leaf, but once it is gone and he is ugly, he is not useful to the poor any longer, for he has nothing left to give them, being just a statue, though a happy one for having helped the poor.

The Devoted Friend:

“Flour is one thing, and friendship is another, and they should not be confused. Why, the words are spelt differently, and mean quite different things.”

This story is a moral story about friendship, though what the moral of the story is, is never explained and depending on which side you are on, the moral seems to change dramatically.

A Gardener becomes friends with a miller, or rather, the miller takes things from him and the gardener allows him to because he believes them to be friends. At one point the miller offers the gardener an old wheelbarrow he has, as the gardener’s is broken. However, he never actually produces this wheelbarrow, instead uses it to make the gardener do more and more things for him, because he’s giving him his wheelbarrow at some point in the future, so the gardener must do all these things for him.

Both characters seem to have much to learn; the gardener must learn to not be gullible, while the miller, who believes himself generous, must learn the true meaning of generosity – i.e what the gardener does for him, not the other way round.

The Remarkable Rocket:

“Love is not fashionable anymore, the poets have killed it. They wrote so much about it that nobody believed them, and I am not surprised.”

The moral of this story seems to simply be: don’t think yourself too important, or you will end up not being noticed at all. The story follows a rocket firework, on the night of the wedding between a king and queen, but while the rocket thinks he is much more important than the other fireworks, and that he is going to be the firework that ends the show and makes everybody amazed; he ends up being too damp to burn, and instead ends up being set off in the day time when no-one can see him.

The Nightingale and The Rose: 

“For want of a red rose is my life made wretched.”

A student wishes to dance with the daughter of one of his professors, but he refuses unless he can bring her a red rose. A nightingale overhears and decides to get him one, the only way she can do this is to sing while letting the thorn of a white rose bush pierce her heart and kill her, the student takes it, but the professor’s daughter has already found someone else and refuses to dance with him anyway.

This story is a very sad one, although the poetic style of the writing makes it less so, the ending seems to be a cliff-hanger, although it isn’t. The story is wrapped up, but you can’t help feeling as if there should be more, as the student gives up on love at the end, you want more story where he realises love is not futile, but it’s only a short story and we don’t get that. It’s a wonderfully written story, although sad, and maybe the sadness is the reason I did not remember being read this story before. Though this story especially, and the entire book is definitely worth a read, as they are bittersweet, but poetically written, even if you don’t like the morals and the symbolism in some of the stories, you can still enjoy the writing.

Books My Mother Gave Me: Treehorn’s Treasure (Florence Parry Hide) Review

Published September 30, 2013 by ElisaChristy

This is the second and only other book I have from the Treehorn collection – there are about five of them – it’s style is, of course, very similar to The Shrinking of Treehorn and the story is told simply. As if nothing is out of the ordinary about it.

“‘The leaves on the tree in our garden are turning into dollar bills.’ ‘Some people have all the luck,’ said the girl.”

Treehorn is given a dollar by his father who tells him to save it by keeping it somewhere safe. He puts it in an envelope he was going to use to send of for a magic set with and places it in a tree in his garden. Then the tree starts turning into money.

Treehorn tries to tell people such as his father who is having trouble with money that there is some growing on the tree outside, but the adults in Treehorn’s world either don’t listen to him or don’t believe him. In fact, even those that do seem to believe him act so nonchalantly about it, that you are never entirely sure, whether they think he’s pretending and are going along with it or believe him and just don’t care.

“‘I thought it was a maple tree, but now that the leaves are turning into dollar bills, I’m not sure,'”

The book is good at showing you Treehorn’s world, where Treehorn, despite the strange things which happen to him, seems to be the only person who has any idea of what is going on, and children reading it or having it read to them can relate to him.

The book is also genuinely funny in places, or at least funny to small children, such as The phone conversation between Treehorn and his father when his father thinks he is talking to his mother.

Everything goes back to normal at the end of the book when his father convinces him to open a savings account with his money instead.

When I was younger, I always thought this was the more boring of the the Two Treehorn books we had. Maybe it was to do with the title of the other one seeming so much more original than another story about treasure. But the way the story is told and the completeness of Treehorn’s world make this book just as original as The Shrinking of Treehorn and just as entertaining to read, if not more so than the other book.

Books My Mother Gave Me: The Shrinking of Treehorn (Florence Parry Hide) Review

Published September 23, 2013 by ElisaChristy

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This is a short book, designed mainly for children to read alone. The premise is exactly as the title suggests: Treehorn is shrinking and he doesn’t know why.

“‘If you want to pretend you’re shrinking, that’s all right,’ said Treehorn’s mother, ‘as long as you don’t do it at the table.'”

The adults in Treehorn’s life either remain in denial about him shrinking, or assume it is his fault somehow and tell him to stop it.  Adults not understanding children and blaming them for things they have no control over is common in books of this sort, though I don’t think I’ve ever read a book which does it quite like this one does.

“‘First it was the cake and now it’s this. Everything happens at once.'”

The book is illustrated by Edward Gorey and indeed the writing, although not by him, also carries some of his humour.  As Treehorn keeps shrinking, the adults seems to just hope it goes away, his principal at school gives him advice to stop shrinking and seems to think he has solved the problem, but of course Treehorn knows he hasn’t. The book is good at portraying how odd adults seem to children, how we ignore, what to them are entirely obvious problems that need answers, and we ignore them because we don’t know how to fix them. For a book under a 100 pages long, that’s an impressive feat.

“‘I wonder if he’s doing it on purpose. Just to be different.'”

We learn at the beginning of the book, that Treehorn regularly sends off for prizes you can get from cereal boxes, and it is one of these  – a board game – which is causing him to shrink. When he finishes the board game, he regains his normal height. The book ends with a cliffhanger – Treehorn turns green – but this time he decides not to tell anyone, because he’s sure they won’t notice unless he mentions it.

The book is easy to read for children, it portrays shrinking as both a normal and abnormal thing at the same time. The book is humourous and if you have read some of Edward Gorey’s writing, it’s a safe bet that you will enjoy Florence Parry Hide too.

Books My Mother Gave Me: Charlotte Sometimes (Penelope Farmer) Review

Published September 16, 2013 by ElisaChristy

I could never remember the first time I was read this book. I can remember reading it myself frequently, but I am sure I never would have done if it had not been read to me first, as it is not the sort of book I usually think I like – girls in Enid Blytonesque boarding schools were never my favourite.

My favourite song by The Cure is also Charlotte Sometimes which is based on this book, if you read the book and then listen to the song, you can hear the quotes they have taken directly from the book.

The story follows Charlotte as she starts her new school, but on waking up after her first night there, she finds the school looking different, everyone calling her Clare and talking about the  first world war. The next day, it’s back to normal and being called Charlotte again – as this keeps happening on alternate days, she really is Charlotte Sometimes.

“What would happen if people did not recognize you? Would you know who you were yourself? If tomorrow they started to call her Vanessa or Janet or Elizabeth, Would she know how to feel like Charlotte? Were you some particular person only because people recognized you as that?”

The style of writing in the book is very detailed, but none of it seems out of place. At first, as you are seeing it from Charlotte’s point of view, you doubt the situation as much as she does, as you know it was her first night at school, so it’s perfectly possible she did not know people’s names or what the buildings looked like as with everything that happens at a new school, it;s possible she didn’t pay much attention to the colour of the walls. You realise what is happening as she does, slowly, in installments, and this makes it believable.

“As she grew older, she seemed to be afraid of more things not less.”

When I was younger, and reading it again now, I was always slightly disappointed that you never saw things from Clare’s point of view especially with the descriptive writing style as describing the future in that style would have been interesting to read.

“How could you dare to become a soldier, knowing that you might end like this?”

You never know the precise reason, Charlotte and Clare are swapping places. It seems to be an amalgamation of things really, and all of them need to be occurring for the chance to occur.

The book is one you carry on thinking about long after you’ve finished reading. It leaves you in a slight daze for a while, that you come out of slowly, noticing details, as in the book, as you go – it’s a good feeling though and the writing style really makes the book stand up to repeated readings.

Books My Mother Gave Me: The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark (Jill Tomlinson) Review

Published September 9, 2013 by ElisaChristy

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This is the first book I have re-read which is probably meant for younger readers, although all the books I’m reading are for children; this one is probably aimed at five year old’s and under. Which is about the age I was when I was first read it.

I do not know whether this book was bought because I was afraid of the dark or whether we already owned it. Anyway the book follows an owl named Plop – which is a very entertaining name at five, but seems to describe his landing skills rather than anything else – as he asks people around him about the dark, so he can learn about the dark and stop being scared of it – which would make his parent’s lives much easier.

The Chapter names reflect what Plop leanrs about the dark with names such as “Dark is Exciting”, “Dark is kind” or “Dark is necessary” etc. depending on what Plop learns about the dark in each chapter.

“‘What do you know about the dark?’ ‘It’s black,’ said Plop. ‘Well that’s wrong for a start. It can be silver or blue or grey or lots of other colours, but almost never black.’

As Plop finds out more about the dark, he starts to like all the things you can only do when it is dark such as set off fireworks, but he still doesn’t like the dark itself, but slowly he stops minding being left on his own while his parents go out hunting.

“‘Dark is kind in all sorts of ways. Dark hides things like shabby furniture and the hole in the carpet. It hides my wrinkles and my gnarled old hands. I can forget that I’m old in the dark.'”

As the book is aimed at younger children it is very short, it took me less than 24 hours to finish.

This book was definitely a book I remembered being read. I’m sure I must have had it read to me more than once, while it may not have actually stopped me from being afraid of the dark myself, (I still am a little bit) it was a book I occasionally re-read myself long after my mother stopped reading to me, because it is a good book to read if you are scared for any other reason – such as from watching a horror film. And if an owl can be scared of the dark, then it’s alright for me to be scared of horror films and read this to recuperate after watching them.

Books My Mother Gave Me: The Land of Green Ginger (Noel Langley) Book Review

Published September 2, 2013 by ElisaChristy

The only things I particularly remembered from this book were the chapter titles. They are named “Chapter the First, Second…etc.” and come with a brief description of what happened in each chapter.

The story seems to be a sort of sequel to Aladdin, as it follows his son Abu Ali who has to find the Land of Green Ginger – a magical kitchen garden which floats around the world – and help the magician who created it, as a spell went wrong and he got turned into a button nosed tortoise. That’s a quest if ever I heard one.

“You must be very proud of having a son who can only say boomalakka wee.”

The story knows it is nonsense and doesn’t try to explain itself away. In fact various characters sometimes point out the plot holes, before being told not to worry about such trivial things when there’s bigger things going on.

The two villains are princes who want to marry the same girl as Abu Ali. They are hapless and spend most of their time arguing with each other, but are definitely entertaining.

“‘Never put all your eggs in one basket,’ advised Ping Foo profoundly. ‘Meaning what?’ asked Rubdub sharply. ‘One thing at a time,’ counselled Ping Foo…’Then why drag in eggs?’ ‘I never knew a man so touchy about eggs!'”

Abu Ali has been given the magic lamp, but can only use one wish. When he does so the genie does not appear, instead his son does and he gets stuck on earth because he is not yet very good at spells.

To win the heart of his princess – the princess Silver Bud – Abu Ali must find three phoenix feathers which are supposedly extinct, everywhere but the Land of Green Ginger, which finds them rather than them finding it.

“A sentence without syntax is like an egg without salt.”

The book ends happily with Abu Ali marrying the princess Silver Bud and everyone getting back to where or what they are supposed to be.

As all I remembered was the chapter titles, I was surprised by how much there is in the book. It may be nonsense, but it’s nonsense with a plot. The book is more entertaining than I thought it would be, which is probably the reason I was read it in the first place.

As it is a sort of sequel to Aladdin, a working knowledge of that book may come in useful as characters from it are mentioned and as I only know the disney version of Aladdin then I wasn’t entirely sure who the people being mentioned were, but knowing the story isn’t vital as none of the original story’s characters have much to do with the main plot.

The book is sort of like a literary pantomime and would probably do quite well if it were made into a real one.